With the novel Fall Factor, I really wanted to tell three stories. First, the trials and tribulations of family run businesses, especially tree businesses. I grew up in arboriculture. My father never owned a tree business, but working for one consumed his time through the 70’s and 80’s.
His devotion to the care and study of trees trickled down through the family. Both my older brothers gravitated to arboriculture and/or outdoor work and study, as did I. All three of us would eventually work in the field. My oldest brother owns a successful tree company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I worked directly with him for over two decades. I still work with the company.
I never intended to be a climber, an arborist. Leaving high school, I drifted away from what I would come to realize later was a lifestyle. I drifted back in almost by accident. When my brother needed help, I needed a job. This story is so common in tree care business, I wanted to tell it. I have no regrets for my choices. The path I chose worked out, well with success on all sides. However, I think now I would not recommend it to a younger me.
Were it not for the family connection, I think I would have left the profession long ago. Like so many family members working in a family business, I quit every other Friday, only to return Monday morning. There were many rough patches, as only family business can create. There were also many more successes. My family connection kept me there, forced me to succeed despite myself. For this, I am eternally grateful to my family.
This story, this interaction, permeates Fall Factor in its own way. Dramatized by addiction, emphasized by time and distance, I told the story the best I knew how, while trying to blend in the struggles common to tree folk, the struggle to work, make money, support employees and their families, work safely and remain sane. These are struggles my brother knew from the get go. I have come to realize that if the business folded, I just needed a new job. He and my sister-in-law and niece, would need a whole new financial life. It took me a long time to realize the burden small business owners carry, the financial risk, the human obligation inherent in employing people.
Second, I wanted to tell the story of many returning combat veterans. The story of isolation through experience and experiences. The feeling of loss when one comes from a tight knit group with shared experience, to not having that type of support and friendship. The feelings of loss for Chris are as much for his brother as they are for his brothers in arms. Loss is a recurrent theme in the book. Chris lost connection and left home, only to lose connection again and have to return home, to the loss of a brother he left to a fate he chose to not cope with.
The third story is that of people swept up by circumstance, some within their control and by choice, and others controlled by the whims of fate or others people. We all move through this world based on a set of choices. The consequences of these choices construct a path. We can chart a course, alter the path to an extent, affect action. Who and what we become is the result of all this. The myriad of choices, the personalities that are involved, fascinate me as a writer, as a human moving down his own path. The interaction of choices made, unmade and made for us by others and/or the whims of fate also weave through the story.
My sincere wish is for all readers to enjoy the story. To have it change them is some small way. To affect the way they see this wonderful world we live in.